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In-book Purchases

Expanding reach and creating new revenue streams

We’re all familiar with the in-app purchase model. It’s a way to convert a free app into a revenue stream. In the gaming world it’s an opportunity to sell more levels even if the base product wasn’t free. Each of the popular ereader apps allow you to purchase books within them, of course, but why does it end there? What if you could make additional purchases within that ebook?

Here’s an example: I’m almost finished reading Walter Isaacson’s terrific biography of Steve Jobs. I paid $14.99 for the Nook version and as I’ve read it I’ve been tempted to go out to YouTube and relive some of the interviews and product launches Jobs did over the years. I didn’t do that though, mostly because it would have required me to close the ebook and search for the relevant video.

I would have paid an extra $5 for an enhanced version of the book with all the YouTube videos embedded (or linked to). Sell me the base edition for $15 and let me decide to upgrade to the richer version for an additional price. Even though everyone won’t necessarily upgrade why not make the option available to those who might?

My example is pretty simplistic but the lesson here is to think about how a single product can be re-deployed as multiple products. Think basic, enhanced and premium editions, each at different price points and upgradable to the next level. The most successful approach here is likely one where the basic edition is as inexpensive as possible and readers are given a compelling reason to upgrade to the enhanced and premium editions.

What do you think? Is this a viable model and can it be implemented in today’s walled gardens or will it have to wait till more ebooks are being sold direct to consumers by the publisher?

This post originally appeared on Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020 Blog (“In-book Purchases“).

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Comments: 7

  1. That’s exactly the model we tried with Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wednesdays-were-pretty-normal/id504598164?mt=8

    You can purchase the regular version but, if you decide you really wanted the enhanced version, you can upgrade right in the app and only pay for the cost of the upgrade. We could only manage to make it work as an app process… hopefully someday there will be a way to do in-ebook purchases, too!

  2. Thanks Aaron. You were obviously hamstrung by the app model. What I’d like to see though is an entire ecosystem where this functionality is built-in, not crafted app by app. So it would be part of your everyday reading experience across a library as vast as Amazon’s but not built with the restrictions of each book as a standalone app.

  3. You could also offer the possibility of buying titles from the same author, series or genre.

  4. That’s right, Rui. There are all sorts of different options to look at with this.

  5. As a follow-up, after reading this article about in-game subscriptions (http://read.bi/ReRutd) I can’t help but wonder if the in-book idea could evolve into in-book subscriptions. Think about buying into a stream of genre/topic/author content that’s automatically delivered to your device.

    • Mike Shatzkin believes the subscription model is best suited to genres, than publishing in general. You sugestion would be a step forward.

      I actually believe in a subscription service with access to any genres. But it would be aded value if I could subscribe a particular author/topic/collection, automatically delivered to me whenever something new was published – in essence it’s similar to a rss feed or google reader. 

      • I agree that genres are probably a key. I’m more likely to sign up for a subscription with a specific focus I’m interested in than a broader one with no focus. I’d worry that the latter would be overflowing with products I’m not interested in.

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